Damage to eye in assault destroyed man’s dream of playing football for Dublin

Aaron Duffy was 19 when glass was smashed into his face at Wrights Cafe Bar in Swords

The victim had to undergo surgery to treat a “severe perforation” and prolapse of his left eye, the court heard. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

The victim had to undergo surgery to treat a “severe perforation” and prolapse of his left eye, the court heard. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

A plumber who suffered permanent damage to his eye in a nightclub glassing assault has said the attack destroyed his dream of playing with the Dublin senior football team.

Aaron Duffy was 19 when Stephen Howe (22) smashed a glass into his face while both men were in a line for the toilets at Wrights Cafe Bar in Swords, Dublin on December 23, 2017.

The assault followed a brief exchange of words between the two. The victim had to undergo surgery to treat a “severe perforation” and prolapse of his left eye.

A medical report from September 2018 stated the eye now has satisfactory vision but that there is a permanent scar to the cornea.

Garda Alan Clarke told John Berry BL, prosecuting, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that Howe of Brookdale Road, Rivervalley, Swords was arrested on April 2, 2018. He told gardaí he couldn’t remember where he was on the night.

When shown CCTV footage of the assault he said it couldn’t be him in the footage because he wasn’t in the venue that night. He said he was in Mayo for the Christmas period.

In November 2019 he entered a guilty plea to the charge of assault causing harm. Mr Berry told the court the DPP would enter a nolle prosequi on the more serious charge of assault causing serious harm.

Howe was on bail at the time for an offence of drink driving committed the same month as the assault. He was in the process of applying to join the British Army and later served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, the court heard.

Changed his life

Gda Clarke told Seamus Clarke SC, defending, that he spoke to the defendant on the night and he had facial injuries, was swearing and struggling with security staff. He said he appeared “to some extent” intoxicated.

Reading his own victim impact statement in court Mr Duffy said the assault had changed his life. He said a week earlier he had played his best match ever for the Dublin under 21s Gaelic football team and had hopes of getting onto the senior squad.

He said after the assault doctors told him he couldn’t play football for a year and that it would always pose a risk to him. He said his dream to play with the team was taken away after years of hard work and effort.

The next season was the first time he didn’t make the team and he began to self-harm for the first time in his life.

He said a six year happy relationship fell apart, and he was treated for PTSD and depression after the Dublin county board provided him with a counselling service.

He said he still has recurring nightmares of the shards of glass entering his eyes, nose and mouth.

The attack has left him less confident in his work as a plumber and he lost many months of employment, he said.

Mr Clarke told the court his client was young and immature at the time but his stint in the army has helped to mature him.

Counsel said that a prison sentence would result in his instant dismissal from the army. He urged the court to consider that the impact of imprisonment on a young person is much greater because they are trying to carve out a place in life.

Judge Elma Sheahan adjourned the matter for finalisation on July 30 and remanded Howe on continuing bail to that date.